The Great Gift of Persistence

“Imagine at the birth of your child you were given the choice between bestowing them with great intelligence or great persistence. Your choice will have a profound difference and will impact on your child’s success at school, their future levels of achievement and eventually income levels as an adult”.

Which would you choose?

This is a question Michael Grose a renowned Australian parenting educator has posed to many parents. If you chose persistence he suggests you’re on the money and are giving your child a significant leg-up for future success. In fact a study done by Professor Charles Desfoges from the University of Exeter in the UK found that persistence was 7 times more significant than intelligence as a determinant of a child’s achievement.

The great new is that persistence is not merely an inborn trait it’s a learnt behaviour and Desfoges found that parents rather than teachers are most likely to impact on child persistence. Below is a list Grose suggests are common traits we would expect to see in a persistent child:

  • They stick to tasks until the end
  • They set goals and work towards them
  • They generally focus on tasks and are not easily distracted
  • They don’t let failure stop them
  • They are more likely to take risks as learners; and
  • They can be seen as stubborn or unwilling to bend

As you can see the ability to persist at a task and see it through to the end is one of the most important attributes we can help develop in our children. Know however that at times these strong persistent character traits may challenge our comfort zones as parents, especially when it is time to ask a child to stop a task they are engrossed in or change to a more appropriate task. Ahhh yes, a persistent child will often dig their toes in, argue till they are red in the face, be unwilling to bend and may even throw a wobbly. When these situations arise remember that your child will respond much better to choices rather than being told what to do.

Get creative with your choices and watch tension dissipate as you both manage to maintain a level of control whilst coaching your child to adapt and adjust (great skills to take into adulthood).

Other ways we can encourage healthy persistence in our children:

1) Role models – show your child how you persist at things on a daily basis and give them examples of how it has paid off.

2) Promote persistence – encourage and guide your child to persist at tasks so they can see it is possible to complete or eventually perform the task

3) Persistent vocabulary – use terms like hang tight, give it heaps, hard yaka, dig in etc

4) Build resilience so they are not afraid to fail – challenge your child to attempt activities where failure is a real option so they can overcome setbacks and push through difficulties. When kids continually experience easy success we set them up for failure because when they finally face up to difficult situations many lack the skills to push through the tough times.

5) Make a fuss – when your child persists at a task, regardless of their success, let them know it’s something you truly value. Reward behaviour traits like grit (persisting at boring tasks), self-control (ability to delay gratification) and conscientiousness (ability to follow through with a plan)

So if you would like your child to thrive now and into the future teach them to be resilient and persistently make healthy, physical, chemical and emotional choices, whilst allowing them to fall down occasionally, grit their teeth and bounce back even stronger.

… Sally